This article is written in response to “A Skeptical Look at Monte Kline and Pacific Health Center” by Stephen Barrett, MD on the quackwatch.org website. Recognizing that many people read things on the internet falsely assuming truth and accuracy, it is necessary to give the other side of the story, or as the Bible says:
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)
Let me state from the outset that I have corresponded a number of times with Dr. Barrett regarding false or misleading statements on his website, and he has contacted me on one occasion when I inadvertently published a false statement about him on my website. He has corrected several incorrect statements of fact on quackwatch.org at my request. Though we embrace diametrically opposing views on many health care issues, we have a cordial, mostly respectful relationship.
I do not believe, as some in the natural health field do, that Dr. Barrett is part of some grand conspiracy funded by the conventional medical and drug establishment to eliminate natural medicine approaches. Though I’m sure the conventional medical and drug establishment appreciates and applauds Dr. Barrett’s work, there is really no evidence to that effect, plus the fact that Dr. Barrett denies any such connection or funding. Until I see any evidence to the contrary, I will take him at his word.
It is also my contention that Dr. Barrett has done significant damage to the reputation and business of many natural medicine practitioners, including myself. I know of at least two instances recently where a potential client (or relatives of a potential client) read his article on me and cancelled their appointments without checking out the other side of the story. We seem to have gone from an earlier generation that embraced Will Rogers’ attitude of, “All I know is what I read in the papers” to “All I know is what I read on the internet.” For better or worse, anyone can say just about anything on the internet without challenge or consequences. Dr. Barrett has every right to express his opinion on various health care practices, as do I. I believe in free speech, as long as it is accurate and can be appropriately challenged.
Ultimately I believe that Stephen Barrett and I (as well as most natural health care practitioners) view health practice from very different paradigms, as well as different backgrounds and education. I further believe it’s instructive to explore these differences, which I will attempt to do herein.
WHAT BARRETT DOES NOT SAY ABOUT THE PACIFIC HEALTH CENTER CASE
At the outset, let me give a quick summary of the State of Washington vs. Monte Kline and Pacific Health Center case which Dr. Barrett’s article focuses on. One should understand that certain facts may be stated, while omitting other facts, resulting in misleading. I maintain that the article “A Skeptical Look at Monte Kline and Pacific Health Center” does exactly that.
By selectively reporting and taking some things out of context, the impression is given that Pacific Health Center and I are somehow fraudulent and guilty of that loaded word “quackery.” Thus the whole truth is “spun,” rather than truly presented in an objective, “no axes to grind,” manner.
I was targeted by the Washington Attorney General in 2002, even though on two previous occasions they decided not to start a case against me, for lack of evidence. The motivation was a brief case with the Oregon Attorney General who maintained we were violating the Consumer Protection Act with doing our nutritional testing and program. That case was started in response to a complaint by a competing health practitioner, a retired osteopath, who heard a radio ad for my clinic. None of our clients complained. The case began with a supposedly informal, but under oath, interview with a former nurse turned Assistant Attorney General named David Hart. It was clear from the outset that Hart’s mind was made up from the beginning, as he stated to my attorney, “My mission is to stop all electrodermal testing.” My tax dollars at work.
In spite of his various threats and accusations to me and my staff, Hart folded his case a couple months later and began to sue for peace. The real motivation was then exposed, as he demanded a $15,000 “shakedown” to drop the case. I paid that, unfortunately, rather than continue to trial. The Stipulated Judgment agreement noted that neither party acknowledged any fault, but that didn’t stop them from portraying the case in the media as if I had done something wrong.
It also didn’t stop the Oregon AG from inciting the Washington AG to attempt their own shakedown for my practice in that state. These bureaucrat lawyers largely follow the same perverted philosophy that lawyers in general do: Shake you down for less money than what it would cost to fight the case. Originally the Washington AG wanted over $150,000 for their “investigation costs.” Having already been shaken down in Oregon, I was committed to not playing that game again. They didn’t count on being forced to continue prosecuting the case, prompting some rebukes from their supervisors at the Attorney General’s office.
A sympathetic trial court judge granted summary judgment to the state early in the case, after which I petitioned the Court of Appeals. They ultimately ruled in my favor, finding that Pacific Health Center did not violate the Consumer Protection Act. The statute called for the loser to pay attorney fees, so the State of Washington ultimately paid me $231,000 in attorney fees – unfortunately only about half of what we spent.
As Dr. Barrett points out, the state also charged me with unlicensed practice of acupuncture, naturopathy, and medicine. The Court of Appeals did not reverse those findings, which meant I was forced to discontinue my practice there. What Dr. Barrett did not say in his article was that the “unlicensed practice” charges were added on later in the case, once the AG apparently concluded they might lose on the charge of violating the Consumer Protection Act.
The unlicensed practice of acupuncture was based on the fact that Electrodermal Screening takes galvanic measurements on acupuncture points. However, no acupuncture is involved – no needles, no skin penetration. Likewise, half of the electroacupuncture points are not part of traditional acupuncture, minimizing the connection and similarity.
The unlicensed practice of naturopathy was based primarily on our usage of homeopathic remedies with clients. While the naturopathy statute says the homeopathy is included in the practice of naturopathy, it does not say it is the exclusive province of naturopaths. Again, this was a bogus charge.
The unlicensed practice of medicine is more interesting. Most states have largely identical language on what the practice of medicine consists of. In Washington practice of medicine is defined this way:
Offers or undertakes to diagnose, cure, advise, or prescribe for any human disease, ailment, injury, infirmity, deformity, pain or other condition, physical or mental, real or imaginary, by any means or instrumentality. (RCW 18.71.011)
These statutes are so broadly written that virtually everyone over the age of 12 is guilty of “practicing medicine without a license.” Anyone who has ever “advised” someone on a health problem, told someone to take an aspirin or a vitamin, sold a product in a health food store, etc. is guilty. “By any means or instrumentality” – you’ve got to be kidding! Because of the idiotic broadness of the statute, it can be used selectively for whichever “enemy of the state” that makes waves against the establishment. Given the weakness of trying to win a consumer protection case against the only practitioner in the state offering a money-back guarantee, especially without any consumer complaints, the “unlicensed practice” case was their ace in the hole.
WHO IS STEPHEN BARRETT?
Stephen Barrett, MD is a retired psychiatrist, formerly of Allentown, PA now living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. According to Wikipedia, Barrett, who is in his early 80’s, is a 1957 graduate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his psychiatry residency in 1961. He retired from active practice in 1993. His medical license is listed as “Active-Retired” in good standing with no disciplinary actions found for his license. I make this notation since some opponents of Dr. Barrett have falsely maintained that he had been “de-licensed” or lost his license to practice.
Barrett is the co-founder, vice-president and a board member of the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF), another organization that has vehemently attacks alternative medicine practices and practitioners, that was dissolved in 2011.
On a personal level, though Dr. Barrett and I have opposing views on appropriate health care, I have found him cordial and a rather interesting person who I somewhat enjoy interacting with. In other circumstances we might be good friends. I add this comment simply because Dr. Barrett has been called every name in the book by various people on the alternative medicine side. I reject ad hominem attacks and wish others on “my side” would do the same.
I believe he is someone passionate about his point-of-view, just as am I about my opposing point-of-view. Even though I disagree with the object and perspective of his zeal, I do admire it. Having said that, I also believe, based on his writings on quackwatch.org, that his desire would be to eliminate nearly all current non-conventional medicine approaches if he could. By contrast, nearly all natural medicine practitioners, including myself, are not trying to destroy conventional medicine or conventional medicine practitioners, which we believe is necessary in certain situations.
A number of internet sites have responded to Dr. Barrett’s attacks on various alternative medicine practices and practitioners, as well as several defamation lawsuits he has been involved in. I don’t necessarily endorse everything these authors have stated, but list them as references for the reader to consider in evaluating the credibility of Dr. Barrett’s remarks. I refer to these simply to show the widespread condemnation of Dr. Barrett and quackwatch.org among the natural healing community:
A CONFLICT OF PARADIGMS
Dr. Barrett operates from a paradigm, and I operate from a very different paradigm. That set of assumptions one makes, that lens through which one views the world, determines how we see “facts” and how we interpret reality. Based on his writings, I see Stephen Barrett’s paradigm embracing these elements:
- Health truths must be substantiated by scientific studies – what is commonly called “evidence-based medicine.” The Wikipedia article on Barrett notes:
When he was asked: “What inspired you to take up science?” he replied that his appreciation of medical science: probably began when I took a college course in medical statistics, and learned what makes the difference between scientific thought and poor reasoning. Medical school brought me in touch with the rapid and amazing strides being made in the understanding and treatment of disease. My anti-quackery activities have intensified my interest and concern in distinguishing science from pseudoscience, quackery and fraud.(Barrett, Stephen. “What Inspired You? — Survey responses – Dr Stephen Barrett”. Spiked-Online. Retrieved July 23, 2007.)
The long legal inquisition the State of Washington conducted against me was based on a simple legal theory, namely that if I did not have “randomized, controlled, double-blind, etc.” studies validating what I did with Electrodermal Screening, it was not true and I was violating the Consumer Protection Act. It didn’t matter to them that they had no complaints from consumers; rather it was all about this novel legal theory.
Had the Washington Attorney General prevailed, it would have been “open season” on practically every natural healthcare professional, since they usually would not be able to cite such studies. There are two “dirty little secrets” regarding this:
1. Conventional medicine doesn’t meet that test. The Office of Technology Assessment of the U. S. Congress during the Clinton administration made the statement that:
80% of all conventional medical therapies have no scientific basis
In other words, all the hypocrites are not in the church! What I call the “health fascists” in government regulatory agencies, as well as people like Dr. Barrett, attempt to foist a standard on natural medicine that conventional medicine doesn’t meet. In a related quote from the Former Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Hans Inglefinger, MD, describing conventional medical treatment, he stated:
10% of it is clearly beneficial
10% of it is clearly disastrous
80% of it is inappropriate for the patient’s actual condition
2. We had expert witnesses in our case who testified that the randomized, double-blind study was totally inappropriate for evaluating a testing method. Rather, outcome-based studies or comparative studies would be more accurate. (Incidentally, we provided a medical journal comparative study to our inquisitors showing that Electrodermal Screening correlated about 80% with the best conventional food allergy testing methods. They, of course, dismissed the study, since it didn’t fit their narrative.) The randomized, double-blind study is appropriate for evaluating a new drug, but it’s pretty much impossible for it to render an accurate judgment of a testing technique.
- Conventional medicine is authoritative and dependable
Dr. Barrett was educated and trained in conventional medicine. He accepts it as truth with little question. Unfortunately the current model of so-called “education” might better be described as “indoctrination,” given it is essentially, as one of my professors noted, “the transfer the bones from one graveyard to another.” There’s a great difference between memorizing and parroting back answers with actually learning how to think, evaluate, and draw one’s own conclusions. I’ll discuss this more under my “Education” section.
- Natural, alternative, non-drug healthcare is usually false and should be viewed with great skepticism.
- The government should suppress non-orthodox healthcare practices
Dr. Barrett likes the fact that state attorneys general, health departments, the Federal Trade Commission, the federal Food & Drug Administration, etc. wield significant police power against practitioners like me. All of these bureaucrats basically believe that they’re really smart (even though they seldom if ever have any personal experience with the practices or practitioners they attack) and that the general public is really stupid and therefore must be paternalistically protected.
My health paradigm is considerably different:
- I begin with a theological, rather than a medical foundation.
I didn’t decide as a teenager that I wanted to be a health practitioner and go to college toward that end. I started out in Christian ministry, but through a health crisis in my own life – testicular cancer at age 24 – I became interested in natural healing methods. Many natural health care practitioners similarly have moved from conventional to alternative medicine motivated by their own health crises. Natural medicine approaches, under the direction of holistic M.D.’s saved my life (including one that Dr. Barrett labels a “non-recommended source of health advice”). I was my own personal “outcome study,” and no so-called randomized, double-blind study would make any difference to me. Knowledge is learned, but truth is discovered.
I began researching and writing about natural healing methods, plus teaching seminars, before I went into clinical practice to actually implement the healing methods I had been teaching. Understand that when I say I come from a “theological foundation,” I don’t mean merely that I have a bunch of Bible verses related to how to deal with health problems. Most of my theological perspective comes from observing (and hopefully cooperating with) God’s creation and deriving principles of healing from that, as reflected in my various books. Likewise, it means that I look at health problems as not merely physical, but as body, mind and spirit issues, following that biblical model (as in I Thessalonians 5:23).
While a significant percentage of natural health care practitioners are either Christian or at least theistically-oriented, conventional medicine practitioners are disproportionately atheistic or agnostic. Conventional medicine is based on an evolutionary humanistic philosophy that is in direct conflict with the biblical view of man. This isn’t a new problem, however. Nineteenth-century author, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans – author of Silas Marner) wrote:
. . . it is seldom a medical man has true religious views – there is too much pride of intellect. (http://education.yahoo.com/reference/quotations/quote/29226)
- I keep an open mind about different health approaches.
I refrain from being immediately dismissive of health approaches that are foreign to me and of which I would tend to be skeptical. There are a lot of things done in natural medicine that I don’t necessarily agree with and wouldn’t use myself. But I also realize that of all the truth in the universe, 99.9999999999999+% is unknown to me. I get daily reminders of how little I know and how limited my perspective is. Humility is one of the advantages of my non-traditional education.
I would say to Stephen Barrett (and any other opponent of natural healing methods such as I do) along with Shakespeare:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Hamlet)
- I am pragmatic about health care – I am impressed by results, not studies
In my 31 years of practice, many clients have related approaches they were doing that I wouldn’t necessarily endorse, but they were getting results. I have learned to never argue with success, but rather to learn from it.
- I believe in health freedom of choice
As referred to earlier, I believe that, provided there is full disclosure, the government has no business restricting choice in health care methods or practitioners. People aren’t stupid. They won’t continue to do something that doesn’t produce results.
To my knowledge, I was the only health practitioner of any kind in the State of Washington offering a “Results Guarantee” – viz. “If you follow your diet and supplement program for one month and do not improve on any of your symptoms, you can get a refund of any testing fees paid.” Though that guarantee was the ultimate of “consumer protection,” (for which they should have given me an award) the health fascists in the Attorney General’s and Health Department offices, were obsessed with destroying my practice. To the objective observer, that should seem rather odd, to say the least!
America, or at least the America my ancestors first came to in 1634, is about freedom from tyrannical government. On many different levels the fascism of an ever-growing, out-of-control government is at odds with individual liberty. The only medical doctor to sign the Declaration of Independence, Dr. Benjamin Rush, the Surgeon General of the Continental Army, shared my concern, writing:
The Constitution of the Republic should make special provision for Medical Freedom as well as Religious Freedom. To restrict the art of healing to one class of men and deny equal privileges to others will constitute the Bastille of medical science. All such laws are un-American and despotic. They are fragments of monarchy and have no place in a republic.
LICENSURE – THE BIGGEST HEALTHCARE FRAUD
I was attacked, among other things, for not being “licensed” as a healthcare provider. The truth is that many occupations, including many healthcare occupations, are not licensed in most states. For example, in Seattle I discovered over 50 different types of unlicensed practitioners. The state can claim an interest in licensing professions that have the potential of danger to the public, such as physicians, but it generally doesn’t see most professions that way.
Most people labor under the delusion that licensure of healthcare providers protects the public. The real purpose of medical licensure was identified by Nobel Prize winning economist, Milton Friedman in his book Capitalism and Freedom, namely, to create monopolies. I highly recommend reading this chapter at the following link: http://books.cat-v.org/economics/capitalism-and-freedom/chapter_09
Licensure simply means that the practitioner was suitably indoctrinated at a government-approved school, and passed the appropriate government-approved tests perhaps decades earlier. It doesn’t mean the practitioner is smart, wise, creative, and compassionate, has an ability to listen, is up-to-date, or many other qualities that are essential to healing. The free market will always make better decisions than government bureaucrats.
Dr. Barrett also suggests in his article that I am not properly educated because I have a Ph.D. from a non-traditional, non-accredited institution. The current view of education focuses on what school you went to, what degree you have, etc. – none of which really has anything to do with the key fact – do you know anything useful?
Historically, education was measured with two criteria:
(1) What do you know?
(2) Who did you study under?
I demonstrated to Columbia Pacific University that I knew a lot of things about wholistic health, largely from my 430 page, fully documented book on the subject – several times the length of the average Ph.D. thesis – which over 100,000 people read. My second book, which over 300,000 people read on a simple method to improve the quality of one’s diet, was also part of my Independent Study Project for my degree, plus other original writings.
As I began my health practice, and up to the present day, I have studied under some of the best known practitioners in natural medicine — many with world-wide reputations. I have learned primarily through mentoring and doing. Think about it: When you employ an auto mechanic, a carpenter, a plumber, or an electrician, do you really care about what school he went to (probably none), or what kind of a certification he has on the wall? Or do you just want to know he’s experienced, his work is guaranteed, and his previous customers endorse him? I think the latter. That’s the model I have followed for over 30 years of practice.
Back in the 1950’s the President of, I believe, U. S. Steel was bemoaning the increasing number of “educated idiots” coming out of colleges. One of my professors referred to many of his seminary students as “highly qualified to be utterly useless.” Or as Bernard Shaw said, “Those who can do; those who can’t teach; and those who can’t teach, teach teachers.”
WILL THE REAL “QUACK” PLEASE STAND UP?
Stephen Barrett fights against what he calls “quackery” on his quackwatch.org and related websites. But is the proverbial pot calling the kettle black? What is the true definition of quackery?
First of all, the term “quack” has nothing to do with ducks! Much of the origin of “quackery” can be traced to a 16th century German physician, alchemist, astrologer, and occultist named Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, who called himself Paracelsus (meaning “above Celsus”). Among other ideas he theorized that the body was composed of salt, sulfur and mercury. He gave his patients the same chemicals he used as an alchemist – opium, mercury, lead, copper, arsenic, and sulfur. He was ousted from his hometown of Basel on charges of what today would be similar to practicing medicine without a license.
Paracelsus’ cures didn’t work very well on himself, given he died at the young age of 51. But he did live long enough to burn the books of Galen and Hippocrates and made a lasting impact on the direction of medicine. After his death doctors began giving chemicals to treat disease, abandoning the historic herbs, roots, and barks.
One of his “remedies” was mercury, or quicksilver – the second most toxic element on the Periodic Table. The slang of the day referred to quicksilver as quack salber. These new “toxic chemical” doctors then began to be referred to as quacks because they gave patients quack salber, that is, mercury. It is an incredible historical irony that, beginning in the nineteenth-century doctors using the historic natural herbs and other non-toxic remedies began to have the term “quack” applied to them.
Therefore, the true definition of a quack is a doctor whose remedies are toxic chemicals. Based on that historic definition, Dr. Barrett’s previous profession in drug-oriented psychiatry is quackery, as is the practice of most conventional medical doctors today. Perhaps the only thing needed for a true “quackwatch” is a mirror!
CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE: THE REAL DANGEOUS DOCTORS
Dr. Barrett and quackwatch.org present natural, alternative healthcare as dangerous to the health of the unsuspecting. But who is the real danger – who is actually killing people – natural medicine or conventional medicine?
Many studies have been done on iatrogenic (i. e. “doctor-caused) disease. The one I will cite to make my point is by Barbara Starfield, M.D. of Johns Hopkins in the July 26, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (pp 483-485). Dr. Starfield reported the following annual deaths from conventional medical treatment in the United States:
Unnecessary surgery 17,000 deaths
Medication errors in hospitals 7,000 deaths
Other hospital errors 20,000 deaths
Hospital acquired infections 80,000 deaths
Adverse reactions to medications 106,000 deaths
TOTAL 225,000 deaths/year
Dr. Starfield then states:
. . . 225,000 deaths constitutes the third leading cause of death in the United States, after deaths from heart disease and cancer.
It is clear, from this and many other even more dramatic studies, that conventional medicine, as the third leading cause of death in America, is inherently dangerous. Natural medicine poses only minuscule risk. For example, death by vitamin overdose is in the neighborhood of 0-3 deaths per year in America, the result of people doing extreme overdosing on their own, not following a practitioner’s advice.
SEMMELWEISS VS. STEPHEN BARRETT
The activities and approach of Dr. Stephen Barrett remind me of the persecution of nineteenth-century Austrian physician, Ignaz Semmelweiss, who was a hospital director in Vienna. At that the time mortality rate for women delivering babies in his hospital was as high as 75%, as a result of puerperal fever. Dr. Semmelweiss observed that his student doctors went right from handling cadavers in the autopsy room to delivering babies . . . without washing their hands.
In 1848 he took the “radical” step of requiring one simple procedure for his doctors – they had to wash their hands before delivering babies. The mortality rate of the mothers delivering immediately went down by a factor of 15! Was Semmelweiss recognized and applauded for his common sense? Hardly. He was dismissed and ostracized by his colleagues, who were offended at the mere suggestion that doctors could be carriers of death. The rejection ultimately drove him insane – he died in an asylum.
Had Stephen Barrett been a physician in nineteenth-century Vienna, which side of that controversy would he have taken? Would results and mere common sense rule, or would he have defended the establishment view and perhaps decried the lack of studies proving that doctors should wash their hands? Nothing much has changed today. Establishments in any field always defend what has become indefensible. Pride, not truth, rules. Semmelweiss and his detractors are still with us.
BARRETT’S “BROAD BRUSH” ATTACKS
The thing that has always struck me the most about Dr. Barrett and quackwatch.org is his seeming absolute acceptance of all conventional medicine and absolute rejection of all natural, alternative medicine. A quick look at articles on quackwatch.org makes this “broad brush” painting of natural, alternative medicine quite clear. Barrett is down on:
Dental mercury toxicity
Growth hormone therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Lyme disease diagnosis
Feingold Diet for hyperactivity
Low carbohydrate diets
Multiple chemical sensitivity diagnosis
Opposition to Immunizations
Opposition to fluoridation
Opposition to food irradiation
Electromagnetic pollution from power lines
Practitioners, besides me, that Barrett lists as “Nonrecommended Sources of Health Advice” are a virtual Who’s Who list of natural medicine:
Robert Atkins, MD
Peter Breggin, MD (opponent of drug-oriented psychiatry)
Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D. (leading alternative medicine researcher)
Lorraine Day, MD
Earl Mindell (Pharmacist and Author of The Vitamin Bible)
Memhet Oz, MD (“Dr. Oz”)
Jordan Rubin (Author of The Maker’s Diet)
Lendon Smith, MD
Andrew Weil, MD
Julian Whitaker, MD
James Balch, MD (Co-author of Prescription for Natural Healing)
Russell Blaylock, MD
Stanislaus Burzynski, MD (Burzynski cancer therapy)
Deepak Chopra, MD
Dietrich Klinghardt, MD (Internationally recognized authority on Lyme Disease)
Joseph Mercola, DO (mercola.com)
And scores more (I got tired of reading the list)
Were Dr. Barrett to question the credibility of some of the practitioners on his extensive list, I would frankly be in agreement. But, believe me, you’re nobody if you’re not on his non-recommended practitioners list! Even if not specifically labeled “quack” or “quackery,” aspersion is cast on all natural medicine practices and practitioners. Thus, I recognize I am in great company being on his non-recommended list, or as a former pastor told me early in my career, the first time a newspaper did a “hit piece” on me:
You’re nobody until somebody hates you.
Based on the above observations, I am forced to conclude that Stephen Barrett, MD possesses a fanatical devotion to dismissing and marginalizing any healthcare view that challenges or competes with conventional medicine. No matter what practice or practitioner he discusses, the conclusion is pretty much the same – they are different from conventional medicine, and therefore they are false and to be avoided.
Natural, alternative medicine exists because of the abominable failures of conventional medicine, particularly in dealing with chronic disease, and its unprecedented rate of iatrogenesis. Non-conventional healthcare is far from perfect, but it is an open forum that encourages discovery and innovation rather than suppression. Conventional, establishment medicine, while necessary for certain health issues, can no longer claim the mantle of the exclusive method of health care. It is philosophically bankrupt, captive to the chemical drug industry. It is truly a “license to kill” and Stephen Barrett, MD is one of this failed system’s greatest cheerleaders.
–Monte Kline, Ph.D.